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Thursday, April 28, 2005

More on Inupiat indecision...

We previously discussed signs that native Inupiat villagers in Kaktovik are having second thoughts about supporting oil drilling in the Arctic Refuge surrounding their town. Link.

Now comes another story from Reuters that adds fuel to the fire.

The piece quotes Robert Thompson, a local tour operator who organized the recent petition drive opposing refuge development. That petition drew 57 signatures in a town of 284 people. Thompson also notes that in the last local election on the ANWR drilling issue, only 98 people voted, "so presumably if there were an election, 57 people could conceivably be a majority," Thompson said.

Support is wavering because Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski advocates of offshore drilling. Residents have long opposed offshore drilling because it could interfere with traditional whale hunting.

Murkowski ended some no-leasing restrictions on Beaufort Sea sites in state waters considered important to Inupiat whalers. He also celebrated a March 30 federal lease sale in which Shell Oil acquired drilling rights in the Beaufort Sea directly offshore of Kaktovik.

Kaktovik leaders have said they would only support drilling as long as it did not threaten their livelihood.

"We can support development of the (coastal plain), provided it is done with certain conditions met, conditions that assure we are empowered by law to protect our interests, including our access to those lands and waters on which we depend," the mayor and city council said in an April 19 letter to Alaska's Congressional delegation.

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